Clay is one of the most widely used material for buildings and has a long and rich tradition, resulting in a vast legacy of traditional and vernacular earthen constructions (the oldest discovered bricks, made from clay-bearing earth and dried in the sun, date back to 7500 BC).
With the increased accessibility of 3d printers, more and more architects, artists, and designers are exploring the possibilities of these new production techniques to shape this centuries old basic building material.
3D printing with clay could potentially be a very sustainable construction process; using local material with little energy and waste. However, while a lot of research projects show interesting results, the printing techniques still needs to be scaled up to meet the needs of larger building projects.
For inspiration and to give a brief overview, I have collected some examples of 3D printing with (liquefied) clay. All project use extrusion as a printing technique, but are different in scale and underlying motives.
3D printer for clay houses
…”The WASP dream: print a healthy, beautiful and human-scale home with a cost that tends to be null. Inspired by the technique of mason wasps, the symbol of the group, the research is aimed at building a 3D printer to make clay houses. Earth is available everywhere in the world; it is cheap and easily malleable.
The aim of WASP is to build ‘zero-mile’ homes, using materials found on the surrounding area. A similar project requires that the machine be portable and features low energy consumption, since in large areas of the planet, there is no electricity at all. It must therefore be able to use renewable energies such as sun, wind and water. The six-meters-tall Big Delta that WASP has currently built can be assembled in about an hour by just three people and can be powered by a few meters of solar panels.”…
More information: WASP Team
Brian Peters of DesignLabWorkshop
…”Building Bytes proposes a new method of fabricating architecture; desktop 3D printers become portable, inexpensive brick factories for large-scale construction.
The first phase of this research focused on how to 3D print with ceramics at the scale of architecture. Working within fixed limitations (the size of a desktop 3D printer, capacity of the material storage system and the properties of clay) led to research into bricks. While the material and building unit are ancient and fairly universal, Building Bytes proposes to revolutionize the fabrication technique.”…
More information: Building Bites, DesignLabWorkshop
J. Friedman, H. Kim, and O. Mesa (Harvard GSD)
…”The Standard definitions and models of additive manufacturing often assume a layer-by-layer deposition of a material onto a flat surface. The research presented looks to explore what alternative formal opportunities may arise when challenging these assumptions concerning additive manufacturing”… …”The woven patterns are designed to incorporate both assembly logics and performance qualities such as light permeability across a façade component. Through a series of full-scale prototypes focusing on a specific building application, this research works to resolve the seemingly conflicting nature between the inherent mutability of the clay material and the high level of control granted by robotic fabrication processes.”…
The panels measure 18” x 18” ( 45x45cm) and are printed in 8 minutes using their robotic fabrication technique.
More information: Robots in Architecture, Jared Friedman
Saša Jokić (Serbia), Starsk Lara (Colombia) and Nasim Fashami (Iran)
…”The projects is based on the idea of robotic additive manufacturing fabrication, innovative materials and computational tools. The research is being conducted at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) in Barcelona at Digital Tectonics course lead by Marta Male Alemany with assistance of Jordi Portell and Miquel Lloveras.”…
More information: FABbots
Robotically Driven Construction of Buildings
…”Robotically Driven Construction of Buildings (RDCB) is an exploration into holistic/integral design to production solutions for robotically driven construction of buildings by involving the disciplines of architecture, robotics, materials science, construction and building technology, and structural design. The team integrates knowledge from the individual disciplines in order to develop new numerically controlled manufacturing techniques and building-design optimizations for adding creative values to buildings in a cost-effective and sustainable way.”…
More information: 3TU, Netherlands
4 hour time laps of 3d clay printed model house with at the expo weekend in beeldentuin duizel near Eindhoven.
…”VormVrij | 3D developed a clay 3D printer to combat their own waste plastic issues. “We now produce with an immediately recyclable and locally obtained natural material. We print without loss. And our final products are durable. They can be used by our great grand children. If left to the elements they remain functional for 5000 years without any harm to our natural environment”….
Ceramic 3d Printing
…”From knife to hammer to 3d printer, the influence of tools on a design is not to be underestimated. Yet for a long time the instruments of production were closed systems. This is now changing. Following the personal computer and a range of digital advances, the advent of the personal fabricator has provoked a revival of the idea of “making your own things.” There is a new species of design, semi-industrial craft, and although the definition of craft often refers to work by hand, in this context it reflects a renewed interest in building knowledge through repetition and practice of a skilled trade using the aid of tools.”…
More information: Unfold
If you’re interested in 3D printing with clay yourself, check for a printer near you: